Recollections of Charles C. Reynolds, WA8WUU
I got my ham license and my first-class radiotelephone operator license when I
was a senior in high school in 1965/1966. I worked part time at Lorain in 1966
while I was attending college locally. To pay for college I went to work full
time in December of 1967 and reduced my hours at school and attended evening
classes. I was a full time land mobile technician at Lorain through 1968 and
most of 1969 because chasing boats was not compatible with attending classes on
a regular basis. The problem was that I wasn't carrying enough credit hours and
wound up 1-A so I got an invitation from Richard Nixon to work for him for a
couple of years starting in August 1969. When I returned to Lorain in 1971, I
transferred to the marine service department and serviced the equipment on the
ships, and I've been doing marine service ever since.
Lorain County Radio became Lorain Electronics in 1966. It was a subsidiary of the Lorain Telephone Company. All of the equipment was designed by telephone engineers who were also hams so much of the control circuitry and methods used old telephone technology and hardware. The last AM radiotelephone was installed at the end of 1971. After Jan, 01, 1972 all MF/HF radiotelephones had to be capable of SSB and the AM stuff was all gone by 1976.
Lorain was developing an automated (similar to IMTS) VHF phone system for the Great Lakes at great expense. They had been spun off from the phone company since 1967 but were running low on the funds to complete their projects so they wound up getting bought out by another company (Oakmont Marine) that exploited their knowledge then bled them dry.
All of the service and sales people quit LEC on DEC. 31, 1980 as things were going sour quickly after the Oakmont buyout. We negotiated with ITT Mackay Marine and most of us went with them servicing the same equipment for the same customers.
With the recession of the mid-eighties, ITT felt we weren't making enough profit and cut us loose but they did help us set up our own, employee owned operation (Radio Link). Radio Link started in 1986 and we still service communications and navigation equipment on lake freighters and ocean-going vessels around the Great Lakes. Same clowns, different circus.
Cellular phones killed what was left of Lorain. WMI and the GL VHF system survived another few years. I will try and find the exact date they shut down. I seem to remember it was probably about 1986 or 1987. The switch to SSB was done at the time mandated by the FCC in the late 70's. The AM channels at WMI were 51 (2182 KHz), 57, 58 (2 MHz channels), 82 (4MHz) and 96 (8 MHz). On VHF, they had both 26 and 28. MF/HF was discontinued before the VHF system was shut down.
I was looking over your WCM info on the website. You might find it interesting that when the station was moved form Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, the station was essentially constructed and set up by, Wes Goodell, John Jones, Chuck Reynolds, Jack Towner and Gary Good, all former Lorain Electronics people. We had left Lorain at the end of 1980 and were the Great Lakes depot of ITT Mackay at the time. (Wes had retired from LEC before the rest of us quit.)
There were two main and one backup operator positions and backup transmitters and receivers at the 580 Walnut St. building downtown. The main transmitter/receivers were located at a site in Clermont County near Batavia, East of Cincinnati. The original transceivers were CAI CA-35's with 1kw amps. Later a Harris RF transceiver went into service (RF-230?). The equipment was remote controlled by phone line. There were two inverted V arrays at the site.
We continued to maintain and upgrade WCM until it ceased operation a few years back. Satellite communications, cellular and Watercom were making it expensive and obsolete to keep on the air. The owners had vacated the 580 building, and there was some talk of moving the control center to the new quarters, but that didn't happen. The license was allowed to expire, and WCM went silent. There was even some talk in the late eighties or early nineties of handling some Great Lakes traffic, and I think a couple of calls were made, more or less as a trial, but nothing ever came of it. VHF and cellular were all that seemed to be needed on the lakes by then.
I still have one of the backup receivers from the 580 building. I'm not positive what happened to the equipment at the site. Seems some was salvaged, some was scrapped, and some may have found its way to the Dayton Hamvention. The site is now a housing development. Someone else is on the 14th floor of the 580 building. The WCM manager, Tony Garofalo, retired and last I heard is back in Pittsburgh.
Charles C. Reynolds ---- Fall 2005 ---- Updated Winter 2007-8
Reconstruct the e-mail address: chuckr-at-nacs-dot-net